Greater consideration should be devoted to the purpose of addressing how new technologies can support capacity building initiatives in the area of peacebuilding, but also to the initiative of evaluating how technologies can be a driver for exclusion.
New technologies and big data can potentially make an important contribution to conflict prevention and peacebuilding, especially within the spheres of early warning and rapid response, imagery analysis, and training, to name a few. Similarly, information and communication technologies (ICTs) have a much broader utility in peace than might be presently assumed. Just as businesses and non-governmental organisations alike are finding novel ways of collaborating in teams using software and communicating their messages using social media, so too are local-level peace actors, who use such technologies to collaborate with others, to project their message to otherwise unreachable audiences, and to productively contribute to peacebuilding debates.
In a post-conflict environment, social media can thus be used to rebuild (or establish afresh) capacity amongst governments and NGOs in a way that would not be possible using traditional media. Compared to the latter, social media is more accessible, faster and easier to use for those who are conversant in doing so. However, not enough attention has been paid to the potential of new technologies and, in particular, to social media as a tool through which to promote the inclusion of marginalised groups in post-conflict peace processes.
More attention should be paid to the negative consequences linked to the abovementioned new technologies. For example, the EU-CIVCAP project found that there are several risks associated with the use of new technologies in early warning and conflict prevention including:
- the fact that such technologies can detect only the visible, physical signs of change to a situation;
- the need for intensive processing (whether human or automated) of imagery data to make it useful;
- the requirement for secure methods of communication to share the data;
- the potential for unintended or adverse consequences to take place when utilising certain technologies (as in the case of the development and deployment of intrusive surveillance drones);
- the need to comply with the applicable regulatory authorities; and
- the vulnerability of these technologies to various countermeasures, such as hacking, jamming and physical attacks.
An important negative dimension relates to how technologies can be a driver for and of exclusion in post-conflict environments. For example, this is particularly relevant in instances where capacity builders might want to reach out to and/or work with more rural communities: at present, only internet-connected cities in the Global South might be able to access these technologies and fully exploit their potential in conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities.
Capacity builders should be aware of, and should exploit the potential of new technologies to promote inclusiveness and increase the capacity of marginalised groups in peace processes. They should also seek to mitigate/minimise some of the risks associated with the use of these technologies, especially where they have the potential to lead to further exclusion.